Skip to main content
Unit of study_

MCGY5602: Opera and Society

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

Opera has a unique capacity to capture the imagination by grappling with enduring cultural and social concerns. This graduate seminar examines opera's engagement with themes including politics, history, myth, sexuality, national identity, popular culture, film, otherness, social class and power, religion, and the supernatural. Selected operas engaging with these themes will form the basis of each weekly session. Students can then choose to focus on a selected area, or choose to offer a broader perspective for assessment.

Unit details and rules

Unit code MCGY5602
Academic unit
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Alan Maddox,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Presentation Class presentation
Prepare a presentation and lead discussion on one week's topic
20% Multiple weeks 15 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Essay
Research essay on a topic developed in consultation with the lecturers
50% STUVAC 3000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Assignment Critical evaluation of readings: part 1
Brief reflective notes on the weekly readings for weeks 1-6
15% Week 06 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Assignment Critical evaluation of readings: Part 2
Brief reflective notes on the weekly readings for weeks 7-12
15% Week 13 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Assessment summary

  • Class presentation: Each student takes a turn as discussion leader for one week. Prepare a presentation of about 15 minutes on the topic for that week, engaging with the repertoire and readings, and lead discussion. You may choose to include some video or audio excepts which may be in addition to the 15 minutes of presentation.
  • Critical evaluation of readings: Brief reflective notes on the weekly readings, showing critical thinking, reflection and insight. Notes are posted week by week to the Canvas discussion board and collated for submission in two parts, following weeks 6 and 12.
  • Essay: Research essay on a topic decided in consultation with the lecturers.

Assessment criteria

The following assessment criteria are used for written work in this unit of study:


Fail: (Below 50%) Work not of acceptable standard.

Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: Unacceptable paraphrasing; irrelevance of content; poor spelling; poor presentation; grammar or structure so sloppy it cannot be understood; failure to demonstrate understanding of content; insufficient or overlong word length.


Pass: (50%-64%) Work of acceptable standard.

Written work meets basic requirements in terms of reading/research; relevant material; tendency to descriptive summary rather than critical argument; makes a reasonable attempt to avoid paraphrasing; reasonably coherent structure; often has weaknesses in particular areas, especially in terms of narrow or underdeveloped treatment of question; acceptable documentation.


Credit: (65%-74%) Highly competent work demonstrating potential for higher study.

Evidence of broader understanding than pass level; offers synthesis with some critical evaluation of material; coherent argument using a range of relevant evidence; some evidence of independent thought, good referencing. A high credit (70-74) shows some evidence of ability to problematise and think conceptually.


Distinction: (75%-84%) Work of superior standard.

Demonstrates initiative in research and wide, appropriate reading; complex understanding of question and ability to critically review material in relation to underlying assumptions and values; analyses material in relation to empirical and theoretical contexts; properly documented; clear, well-developed structure and argument with some signs of literary style.


High Distinction: (85%-100%) Work of exceptional standard.

Demonstrates high level of initiative in research and reading; sophisticated critical analysis of evidence; high level engagement with theoretical issues, innovative use of reading/research material and impressive command of underlying debates and assumptions; properly documented and written with style, originality and precision.



Oral presentations will be assessed against the following criteria:



Shows evidence of broad research, taking into account a variety of sources

Clear argument, supported by relevant reasons and evidence

Shows evidence of critical thinking about the topic, including:

  • Considers alternative views 

  • Where appropriate, questions assumptions implicit in the literature 

  • Draws meaningful connections between facts and / or concepts 

Uses terminology accurately and appropriately 



Is clearly expressed

Is interesting and engages other students 

Makes appropriate use of examples and presentation methods relevant to the material presented (e.g. presentation software, handouts, recordings where relevant) 

Covers the topic effectively in the available time 

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Myth Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 02 History Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 03 Politics Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 04 Sexuality Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 05 Religion Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 06 Otherness Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 07 National identity Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 08 The Dark Side Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 09 Class and Power Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 10 Special Projects Week: essay preparation Independent study (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 11 Popular Culture Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 12 Film Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Attendance and class requirements

As specified in the handbook.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

Weekly readings will be listed in Canvas

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. take a critical approach to a wide range of operatic repertoire, considered as music, literary text and performative experience
  • LO2. demonstrate enhanced research, information literacy and writing skills.
  • LO3. apply a variety of analytical and critical methods to repertoire across a wide range of styles and periods, and apply these approaches to new or unfamiliar repertoires
  • LO4. think, write and speak critically about opera
  • LO5. articulate a critically informed understanding of major themes and concepts in opera as a cultural, social and performative phenomenon
  • LO6. communicate effectively with peers and with expert and lay audiences from a range of disciplinary and cultural backgrounds.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.